For most firms, referring to products as “Space Age” is a marketing strategy. For Oros, a cold weather apparel firm founded by Michael Markesbery and Rithvik Venna, it is actually a product description.
“We look at the industry and it’s a bit arthritic,” Markesbery said. “They’ve been using the same technology for hundreds of years, and we saw the opportunity to differentiate ourselves from a product perspective. This brand exercise allows us to express that.”
The new technology is a proprietary formulation of Aerogel called Solarcore, for which they own several patents. Aerogel is a NASA invention used to insulate things like the space shuttle and Mars rover. Solarcore is the version developed for the Oros line of performance outerwear.
“For the first time in the history of clothing insulation, you can have a thin amount of insulation and get significant thermal value,” Markesbery noted in an interview with Forbes.
And Oros, according its founders, has tested its proprietary material thoroughly and a bit brutally. The company’s latest line of activewear, released in early November, has reportedly been blasted with liquid nitrogen, taken dog sledding on the Siberian Tundra in negative 40 degrees Celsius temps and worn to the summit of Mt. Everest.
According to Markesbery, the Orion parka — the original and signature product of Oros — is “the warmest jacket in the world.” Warm, he noted, but light. The latest iteration of the parka is now a full pound lighter than the original edition of the jacket put out by the startup, and two-and-a-half times thinner than a comparably warm goose down parka.
And, unlike the down, Oros products are all machine washable.
The direct-to-consumer brand has also been updating its digital shop, as it is now fresh off a $5 million seed-funding round. Investors in the seed round include Sonny Vu, the founder and former CEO of Misfit Wearables; Eric Dobkin, a former partner at Goldman Sachs known as “the Father of the Modern IPO”; NCT Ventures in Columbus; and Listen Ventures, a brand-focused venture capital firm based in Chicago.
The new look for the brand, according to Oros Senior Director of Marketing and eCommerce Adam Eshman, is meant to be a departure from what Oros has done in the past In place of the flat white backgrounds that once defined the brand’s design aesthetic are action shots featuring Oros products in use and in the field. It is also, however, meant to be a departure from what is currently on offer in the market from other outdoor brands as well.
“It’s going to be a kind of website you haven’t seen in retail or outdoor space before,” Eshman said. “It’s much more interactive and engaging, almost as if you’re in the elements as you navigate the site. How we talk about the brand and technology all come to life through this website.”
The new look, according to Markesbery, is meant to create the impression that one is visiting a brand site, as opposed to an eCommerce portal. It was also guided, he said, by the brand’s messaging around “Find Your Beyond.”
“As a company, we want to help you find your beyond,” said Markesbery told Cincy Inno. “We believe in pushing your limits further than you have ever been able to do before. Between our amazing product selection and updated branding, that’s really going to come across and resonate with our consumer base.”
That base is still small today, as the firm is young. And the jackets are not inexpensive — the flagship parka will cost a customer $350. That is in line with what a consumer will pay for a comparable product from North Face or Patagonia, though Oros is a less-known commodity.
Or at least it is today. With free shipping that can get anywhere in the U.S. within five days and a growing a dedicated fanbase, Oros is betting that the world of performance activewear is ready for disruption.
And that its literally “Space Age“ product is the right tool for that job.
“We’re a little bit different than a typical consumer brand. What makes us different is that we truly believe innovation is key to moving an industry forward,“ Markesbery said. “What you can expect from us over the next couple of years outside of explosive growth is continuing innovation within our market and coming out with novel products that really address consumers’ needs.”